People make healthy resolutions for all sorts of things. But wellness seems to be one that tops the list for most—and there’s a good reason for that. Health plays a major role in our ability to do pretty much anything that we want to do in life. It increases our productivity and energy levels that impact our success in professional endeavors. And it also improves our endurance and strength that allows us to perform great physical feats.
There’s likely never been a more pertinent time in our recent history where health has more prominence than right now. “We have seen how chronic illnesses, weakened immune systems and lack of access to medical care can devastate communities and cripple economies,” explains Luzanna Plancarte, M.D., Family Medicine Specialist in Baldwin, New York. “We want to be stronger and avoid illness, but it can all seem overwhelming to navigate at times.”
Positive changes towards someone’s health should be top of mind throughout the year. And the approaching new year brings a “fresh start” to a sometimes daunting, albeit beneficial, alteration. Another reason the new year is a motivating factor for healthy lifestyle changes is pressure from friends. As well as the media and advertisers to “get back in shape” or “lose weight,” notes Dr. Plancarte.
“We should always assuage those pressures with a bit of humor and a lot of introspection about what it is we truly need to do to be well in every sense of the word.”
Looking for ways to invest in your health as you approach the start of 2022? Consider these doctor-approved healthy resolutions for a happy new year every year.
1. Breathe more intentionally
Breathing might be something we do automatically hundreds of times a day without even realizing it, but it shouldn’t be taken for granted. In fact, deep breathing can make a huge impact on your health. “Breathing can literally reset our physiologic alarm bells, decreasing heart rate and even lowering blood pressure and can be done for free and at any time,” explains Dr. Plancarte. “Make this a habit and you will have the tools to quickly calm your body and quiet your mind wherever you are.”
Want to practice deep breathing? Dr. Plancarte suggests taking a deep breath in through the nose for 4 seconds, holding for 4 seconds and then exhaling for 6-8 seconds through the mouth. “The longer out breath stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system, helping us feel relaxed and in control from the inside out,” she adds.
2. Get more sleep
Sleep is another thing most of us do for a significant amount of time each day. Yet too few of us are getting enough. In fact, 1 in 3 adults aren’t getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night, according to the (CDC). The good news is that you can easily improve your sleep habits with regular wake schedules.
Try minimizing caffeine and alcohol intake as well as making your bedroom a screen free relaxing environment, according to Dr. Plancarte. Having trouble shutting your mind off? She recommends listening to a sleep meditation online or playing white noise in the background to achieve this healthy resolution. “Better sleep means more energy during the day, improved focus and even less food cravings, so next time you find yourself scrolling instead of sleeping, put your phone down and thank me in the morning,” she adds.
3. Take your vitamin D
Also known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is something that we mostly glean from exposure to the sun, which is one of the reasons why so many of us are running low. In fact, according to a study published in Nutrition and Research Practice, as many as 42 percent of the U.S. population is deficient in this essential nutrient. “Vitamin D not only helps your body absorb and utilize calcium for healthy bones, but has also been shown to strengthen muscles and therefore minimize the risk of falls in the elderly,” says Dr. Plancarte.
“Adequate levels of this fat soluble vitamin may relieve fatigue, muscle aches and even improve your mood while helping you fight infections by boosting your innate immune system.” While you can look to natural sources of vitamin D in your diet, including fatty fish like salmon and tuna, egg yolks and fortified foods, you can also speak to your doctor about supplementation if it’s right for you.
4. Invest in your mental health
It’s socially acceptable to spend countless dollars and amounts of energy on your physical health. From signing up for a gym membership to purchasing a meal plan or working with a nutritionist. For some reason, however, there’s a major stigma when it comes to investing in your mental health. Now, more than ever, it’s important to pay attention to how you’re feeling emotionally, especially in light of the pandemic. “It has been a lot to handle emotionally and can often lead to poor lifestyle choices if we are stressed out or anxious,” says Dr. Plancarte.
If you are struggling with depression, call your doctor or someone you trust to support you during this time. “If you are anxious, try to explore ways to better manage your symptoms with meditation, exercise or speak with a professional.”
That can give you the tools and guidance you need to cope and thrive.
5. Be kind to your gut
It might not be the most appealing healthy resolution, but it’s an important one, according to Dr. Plancarte. “Our intestines, all 15-20 feet of them, play a crucial role in digestion, absorption, and immunity,” she says.
But there’s also a mental health benefit.
“Most of our body’s serotonin—the same type of feel-good chemical messenger that works in our brain and nervous systems—lives and works in your gut too!” She recommends eating gut-healthy foods like yogurt, kefir, miso, sauerkraut and kimchi, staying hydrated and consuming more fiber to improve your gut and your overall mood at the same time.
6. Drink more water – the Easiest Healthy Resolution
Drinking more H2O is the simplest healthy change you should make in the new year. It’s not only something we need to survive, but something we need in for our organs to function properly. What’s more: drinking the recommended daily amount of water, comes with a slew of health benefits according to the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. These include helping you stay full for longer periods of time, flushing out bad bacteria, enhancing your skin health and preventing constipation, notes Raman Madan, M.D., director of cosmetic dermatology, Northwell Health.
The daily recommended amount of water is 1.5 cups for women and 11.5 cups for men.
7. Show up to your annual physical
If you haven’t done so, your annual physical should be on your list of healthy resolutions. “This will include blood work, and where applicable, certain screening tests such as an EKG and a simple breathing test,” says Frank S. Coletta, M.D. Chief, Critical Care Medicine, Associate Director, Center for Sleep Medicine, Mount Sinai South Nassau. “In addition, discuss more extensive testing and your eligibility for them, such as mammography and colonoscopy with your clinician so that potential asymptomatic diseases can be picked up and treated early.”
8. Discuss vaccines
While you’re at your physical, or during another appointment, Dr. Coletta recommends discussing vaccines for which you may be eligible with your clinician. Which includes tetanus, shingles, pneumonia and, of course, COVID vaccines. “Conversations should be aimed at risks versus benefits as well as eliminating any potential misconceptions or barriers,” he says.
“At the very least, these vaccines have the potential to make one’s life less burdensome and at best, be lifesavers.”
Healthy Resolutions for Every Year – In Conclusion
It doesn’t have to be the new year to start on any (or all) of these healthy resolutions. The sooner you start, the better you’ll feel. And the better you feel, the better you will be. And don’t forget that healthy lifestyles aren’t overnight successes. Whether it’s mediation or improving bloodwork, it takes effort and consistency. But it’s always worth it!
Jenn Sinrich is a freelance editor, writer and content strategist located in Boston, Massachusetts. She received her BA in journalism from Northeastern University and has more than a decade of experience working for a myriad of female-focused publications including SELF, Parents, Women’s Health, BRIDES, Martha Stewart Weddings and more. When she’s not putting pen to paper (or, really, fingers to keyboard), she’s enjoying the most precious moments in life with her husband and daughter.